BCP Preseason Position Rankings: Linebackers

After taking a look at the area’s top defensive linemen on Wednesday, it’s now time to examine those who will backing them in 2019.

Continuing with Big Country Preps’ eight-part preseason position rankings series, here’s our top 10 linebackers to watch this fall as well as a list of the others we’re expecting big things from.

We hope you enjoy our list.

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BCP Podcast No. 58: Evan, Daniel discuss predictions for upcoming football season

With the 2019 high school football season now less than two weeks away, Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood have decided to utilize this week’s Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast to break down every 11-man district race and dive deeper into their predictions for the upcoming season.

In this episode, Evan and Daniel share who they think will win each district and why, and go into deeper detail why they picked they teams they did to advance to the playoffs.

Continue to check back at BigCountryPreps.com each Wednesday night at 7 p.m. when Evan and Dan discuss the current happenings in Big Country High School sports — often with an interesting sports figure from around the area.

You can also peruse our BCP Podcast archive, which features dozens of our previous shows with prominent coaches and Big Country media fixtures. 

Inquiries regarding these podcasts may be directed to Evan Ren at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com. 

If you have a suggested topic of conversation or a recommended guest, don’t hesitate to contact us! 

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BCP Preseason Position Rankings: Defensive Linemen

With football season fast approaching, it’s time to take a look at the players who will be making the biggest waves in 2019.

For the first installment in an eight-part series that will cover all position groups, we’ll be taking a look at the area’s top defensive linemen, ranking our top 10 with a list of others to watch this fall.

As with any such list, these rankings are subjective. We hope you enjoy reading through them.

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DISTRICT PREDICTIONS: Evan and Dan make their picks

Without further ado it is time for us to make our Big Country predictions, district-by-district.

This is the culmination of several weeks of research and two solid months of summertime labor, so we’re more than ready to post it. 

So dive in and study our take on the upcoming season, along with the more than 80 preseason stories we posted earlier today.  Enjoy!  We’ll see you on the road. 
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EVAN REN: Games worth traveling to in 2019

Got the truck started yet?

Ready to jump on one of those farm-to-market roads to watch high school football into the late hours on a Friday night?

You’re not alone.

And, as tradition would have it, I tip my cap to those of you who will be hitting the trails each week in search of pigskin. My salute: a preseason menu of sorts.

Each week for the next 11 weeks, Big Country Preps will be searching for its Game of the Week, and we’re already looking ahead. We now present our preliminary list of Big Country Games worth traveling for, but keep in mind: the following list is subject to change as surprises and disappointments emerge.

And as we all know … surprises and disappointments always emerge.

So, without further delay, here is our list of Big Country games worth traveling for in 2019.

I’ll see you on the road.

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FEATURE: Injury gives Abilene High QB Abbe new perspective

When Eric Abbe beat out then-senior Kallin Sipe for Abilene High’s starting quarterback job last fall, it was with the expectation that he’d be holding onto that post for a while.

So when he was lost for the season less than two quarters into the Eagles’ opener against Amarillo Tascosa, you can imagine the disappointment he felt.

A torn ACL and meniscus in his left knee on AHS’ first drive of the second quarter rendered him a spectator the rest of his junior season. And in doing so, it forced him to pack the entirety of his varsity career into his senior year, which kicks off Aug. 30 against that same Tascosa squad.

While it would be easy to look back and ask, ‘What if?’ or ‘Why me?’ Abbe’s chosen to avoid that pitfall. And while he won’t try to convince you the injury was a good thing, he acknowledges there were lessons through that experience he might never have learned otherwise.

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ABILENE HIGH TEAM PREVIEW: Eagles look for return to prominence under Fullen

After missing the playoffs each of the past two seasons, Abilene High has adopted a straightforward motto in Mike Fullen’s first season as head coach.

Very simply, the Eagles want to get “Back to the Top.”

That may sound like a lofty goal for a team that’s posted a combined 8-12 record over the past two years. But the Eagles are just three years removed from an 11-win campaign. And with 28 lettermen back from last year’s squad, which started 5-1 before dropping its final four games, AHS has good reason to expect better.

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FEATURE: Cooper’s Diaz eager to hit field, lead after injury

After starting every game for Cooper as a sophomore in 2017, LaDainian Diaz had every reason to be excited entering his junior year.

But that excitement turned to disbelief and then grief when a torn ACL in his right knee ended his campaign in the opening week of the season.

Now fully healed from that setback, Diaz is set to return to his free safety position when the Cougars kick off the 2019 season Aug. 30 in Keller. And though that’s now just two weeks away, the wait hasn’t gotten any easier.

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COOPER TEAM PREVIEW: Experienced Coogs looking to take big step forward

While their 6-6 record was hardly a head-turner, the Cooper Cougars made significant strides last year in coach Aaron Roan’s first season as head coach.

The Coogs rebounded from a rocky 0-3 start to come within a game of sharing a district title and picked up a playoff win over a scrappy El Paso Eastwood squad before bowing out in the area round to North Richland Hills Birdville.

Now, with 28 lettermen back from that team, including eight offensive and seven defensive starters, the Coogs are determined to take the next step in their progression. And the call for improvement goes all the way to the top.

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FEATURE: Wylie’s McAden a multi-talented weapon

Jaxon McAden was truly a jack of all trades for the Wylie Bulldogs in 2018. Seeing action at safety, receiver, kicker and punter, his fingerprints could be found in all three phases of the game. 

But as little trouble as McAden had getting on the field in his first year as a varsity player, it was staying on it that proved problematic. A knee contusion cost him time early in the season, before an elbow injury brought his campaign a premature close.

And just like that, with a couple of ill-fated sequences, McAden’s multi-dimensional skill set was neutralized.

Now healthy, the senior enters his final high school season with big goals and lofty expectations. And nearing the top of both lists is an injury-free season that allows him to maximize his many talents.

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WYLIE TEAM PREVIEW: Bulldogs look to bounce back from winless season

The Wylie Bulldogs’ first season as a Class 5A program didn’t go at all as planned. Coach Hugh Sandifer’s squad struggled out of the gate and never found its footing in a tough 0-10 campaign.

But if you think Wylie’s first winless season since 1982 shook the confidence of this tradition-rich program or broke the Bulldogs’ will, think again.

WHS may have had its 24-year playoff streak snapped in painful fashion, but the ‘Dogs have no intention of letting that setback grow into a prolonged slump.

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FEATURE: Stephenville’s Smith goes from handyman to leader

STEPHENVILLE — For many Stephenville football players, waiting your turn to be a key contributor is a rite of passage. 

A high level of talent and depth nearly dictate it. 

But for some, like senior offensive lineman Caleb Smith, that waiting period can be shortened a bit if one finds a way to become as useful as possible. 

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STEPHENVILLE TEAM PREVIEW: Yellowjackets hoping to avoid the medical tent

STEPHENVILLE — Rebuild or reload? 

When it comes to perennial power Stephenville, the latter is generally true. But in a season that features a coaching change and 30 lettermen to replace while playing in one of Texas’ toughest 4A districts, the Yellow Jackets may need time to regroup. 

Not to say Stephenville won’t be good. The ‘Jackets have two capable quarterbacks in Kade Renfro (100-186, 1,808, 16 TDs) and Cole Stanley (38-96, 720 yards, five TDs). They have an All-Big Country Preps caliber linebacker in Quinton Walker (100 tackles, 6.5 sacks) with a solid defensive line in front of him. 

They do, however, have considerable talent to replace as first-year coach Sterling Doty takes over the program. 

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FEATURE: Baylor-bound Brownwood star McCarty hoping for big senior season

With a scholarship offer secured and his college commitment behind him, Brownwood standout Adonis McCarty Jr. doesn’t need a big senior season to continue his football career past high school.

But good luck convincing the two-way star that he doesn’t have anything left to prove.

After receiving for a combined 1,549 yards and 14 touchdowns over the past two seasons, McCarty has already established himself as one of the Big Country’s best athletes and most accomplished players at his position. But it’s the things he hasn’t yet done — such as leading the Lions to a playoff victory — that are driving him this fall.

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BROWNWOOD TEAM PREVIEW: Burnett looking for growth in Year 2

BROWNWOOD — Sammy Burnett’s first year back in Brownwood was a mixed bag. The Lions finished 4-6 and closed the year with four lopsided losses, but the season ended in the Class 4A Division I playoffs and included a stretch of four consecutive wins that showed the potential the BHS program still has.

During that streak, the Lions routed an 8-4 Graham team 47-26, defeated Class 5A teams from Wichita Falls Rider (20-16) and Wylie (53-21) and opened District 7-4A play with a key 34-14 win over Gatesville that would earn them a spot in the postseason despite a rocky 0-3 finish to the regular season.

With that experience now in the rear view, Burnett’s goal for Year 2 is to see his team find the consistency it lacked in 2018. And though he returns just 16 of the 38 lettermen on last year’s squad, he’s confident the players on his roster can get that job done.

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FEATURE: Big Spring’s Harris, Nelson ready to run

With a sophomore starter at quarterback for the third consecutive season, Big Spring will be leaning on the run game this fall to take pressure off its young signal caller and keep the chains moving.

Fortunately for first-year head coach Cannon McWilliams and his Steers, they’ve got a pair of explosive backs to share that heavy load.

Built about as different as two players could be, seniors C.J. Harris and Zephaniah Nelson may look at first glance like an odd couple. But put them together, and they form one dynamic duo.

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BIG SPRING TEAM PREVIEW: Steers look to take step forward in McWilliams’ first season

BIG SPRING — Taking over the Big Spring football program after previously serving as the school’s defensive coordinator, coach Cannon McWilliams is excited about the Steers’ future.

His first order of business, though, is laying the foundation necessary to ensure that that forecast stays bright.

McWilliams believes he has the talent on his roster to improve on last season’s 3-9 mark, but his top priority in Year 1 is developing the type of program culture that will lead to long-term, sustainable success.

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FEATURE: Wood bringing energy, discipline to Snyder

SNYDER — At 28 years old, Wes Wood brings a youthful energy to the Snyder football program his new players find infectious.

The son of a former coach, he also brings a greater degree of discipline and attention to detail than they’re used to.

Those qualities, which might strike some as paradoxical, were the two most consistently mentioned by players when asked what makes Wood’s coaching style unique. And though this is the first head coaching job of his young career, and his mid-June hire gave him a late start at SHS, Wood has already earned the Tigers’ confidence with a positive first impression.

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SNYDER TEAM PREVIEW: Wood, Tigers look to build on last season’s momentum

SNYDER — The Snyder Tigers had a resurgent season in 2018, posting an 8-3 record that marked their first winning campaign since 2011.

Now, with a new coach and a roster that was hit hard by gradation, SHS will try to prove that success — and the momentum built as a result — has staying power. 

Hired to take over the program after Cory Mandrell left for Bowie in May, former Azle offensive coordinator Wes Wood has high hopes for the 2019 Tigers.  But with just 13 lettermen back from last year’s team, including five starters on each side of the ball, Wood and his players will need to get on the same page quickly to achieve those goals this fall.

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FEATURE: Sweetwater QB Holsey ready to take next step

There’s baptism by fire, and then there’s what Leo Holsey experienced in his first year as the Sweetwater quarterback.

Forced into action as a freshman and surrounded by youth, the young signal caller had about as difficult an introduction to the varsity game as possible.

Add to this that the Mustangs had won a combined 48 games the previous four seasons with standout QBs Kaegan Jeffrey and Chris Thompson. So every mistake he made while working through his inevitable growing pains was magnified.

Yet, through all that, Holsey made clear and significant progress from Week 1 to Week 11 last fall. And by the end of the season — a tough 1-9 campaign — he’d cemented his claim as Sweetwater’s quarterback of the future.

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SWEETWATER TEAM PREVIEW: Young Mustangs seeking playoff return in ’19

  Last year, a young Sweetwater squad took its lumps, struggling through a 1-9 campaign to snap a streak of four consecutive seasons with double-digit win totals.

This fall, coach Ben McGehee is hoping the lessons learned from that experience will help the Mustangs get back on track and back into the playoffs for the fifth time in six years.

That might seem like a tall order, given that SHS was outscored 451-179 last season and lost as many letterman from that team (15) as it brings back. But McGehee saw enough positive signs down the stretch in 2018 to believe a return to the postseason is a realistic goal one year later.

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FEATURE: Young Brock squad leaning on veteran leaders

BROCK — For most Class 3A programs, the loss of 19 lettermen and 17 of 22 starters to graduation would be crippling. Brock’s not like most 3A programs.

Sure, the Eagles have to fill those holes just like anyone else in that situation would. But the foundation of coach Chad Worrell’s program is so strong, and the expectations so high, that the idea of rebuilding season or using youth as an excuse is simply unacceptable.

Given the success BHS has enjoyed — the Eagles have averaged 12.5 wins per season since starting their varsity program in 2013 — it would be easy to chalk up the program’s consistency to geography or other factors unique to that community. But doing so would ignore two massive self-made advantages — a program-wide work ethic that promotes internal competition and a leadership cycle that keeps the ship perpetually pointed in the right direction.

In many ways, those things are interrelated. And it’s the presence of both that has this year’s team feeling good about its chances of upholding the program’s elite tradition.

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BROCK TEAM PREVIEW: Heavy roster turnover won’t alter Eagles’ expectations

With just 10 lettermen back from last year’s 13-2 state semifinalist squad, Brock will have some retooling to do in 2018. But don’t think for a minute that the Eagles’ expectations have changed.

Sure, some things will look different when Brock takes the Eagle Stadium field Aug. 30 against Brownwood. But despite returning just two offensive and three defensive starters from last year’s team, coach Chad Worrell and his players will enter the season with the same lofty goals they’ve always had.

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FEATURE: Wall defensive front seeks to restore elite standard

WALL — When talking about last year’s 9-3 record, all-state defensive end Joe Walker may have offered the best and most concise summation of the Wall Hawks’ collective viewpoint.

“It’s not a bad record, obviously. But it’s not a Wall record,” he said. 

Walker’s sentiment is a common one among Wall players, who are hoping to return the program to its established standard this fall after having a streak of eight consecutive seasons with 11 or more wins snapped in 2018. That it’s being delivered by a member of the Hawk defensive line — long a strength of vintage Wall teams — is likely a positive sign.

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WALL TEAM PREVIEW: Experienced Hawks squad poised to contend

WALL — For most programs, a 9-3 season would be considered a roaring success. For the Wall Hawks, that showing a year ago marked their lowest win total since going 7-4 in 2009.

Wall, which posted a combined 96-14 record from 2010 to 2017, was still a tough out last fall, reaching the third round of the playoffs for the eighth time in the past nine years. But youth and inexperience reared their heads at times, playing a key role in the Hawks’ 0-2 start and keeping them from hitting the 11-win plateau that had served as the low water mark during the eight seasons leading up to 2018.

With much of its talent back from last year’s squad, however, Wall’s setting its bar as high as ever for the 2019 campaign. And while he was proud of what his young team accomplished last year, Hawks coach Houston Guy is expecting a more vintage WHS team this time around.

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FEATURE: Jim Ned’s Kimmel, Hayes among area’s best linebackers

TUSCOLA — There is perhaps no position in football that is more associated with aggression and toughness than that of linebacker. 

And with Jim Ned Indians working hard to shed their reputation as a basketball school in recent years, perhaps nothing illustrates their success in that endeavor more than their linebacking corps. 

Jim Ned, which enters the the 2019 season with legitimate district title hopes, has some of the best linebacking in the Big Country at any level. 

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JIM NED TEAM PREVIEW: Indians ready for dangerous district

TUCSOLA — With the exception of the days when Colt McCoy stood in the pocket at Jim Ned, the Indians have seldom been seen as a Region I threat in football. 

Until now. 

For those who haven’t noticed, the Indians are in the midst of a culture change. It started under former coach Jerod Womack and progressed even further last year under current mentor Matt Fanning.  Facing a monstrous schedule, the Indians posted a second straight 9-3 record last year, earning  a playoff spot in what has been rated as the second most difficult 3A district in Texas. 

Coming off their best two-year run in 15 years, the Indians enter the 2019 campaign with excellent numbers and a chance at both a district title and deep playoff run. 

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FEATURE: Eastland’s got a secret — quality receiving and rushing

                Alex Gonzales

EASTLAND — Behind every great quarterback is a quality group of skill personnel that enables him to achieve his full potential. 

In Eastland, where much of the preseason writing is focused on standout quarterback Behren Morton, a secret has been inadvertently created by the media. 

The Mavericks are loaded at the skill spots.

“Actually, we need to back up a year,” Eastland coach James Morton said. “The reason Behren has gotten the attention he has gotten is because of those skill guys and they’re all back for another year. 

“A quarterback is only as good as his skill guys. … I think Behren would be the first guy to tell you that.” 

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EASTLAND TEAM PREVIEW: Mavericks counting on both lines to develop

EASTLAND — Most preseason conversations regarding the 2019 Eastland Mavericks will center around highly touted quarterback Behren Morton. 

That’s understandable, given that the 6-2 junior is already receiving more Division I collegiate interest than most players could ever dream of. 

The son of Eastland coach James Morton earned that attention with 2,664 yards passing last year as a sophomore, hitting 203 of 315 passes with 18 TDs to only two picks.

The quarterback spot, however, won’t be what determines how far the Mavericks get in 2019. That, in the view of its coach, will be the performance of guys in the trenches. 

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FEATURE: Smallish McKay has learned to channel his aggression

BRECKENRIDGE — At 5-9 and 195 pounds, Breckenridge senior offensive lineman Zane McKay is easy to underestimate.

And that’s just the way he likes it. 

McKay, who may be among the smallest offensive tackles in the Big Country, has found compensation within the reaches of his own heart. In the process, he has come to exemplify the sort of grit the Breckenridge team has counted on under coach Casey Hubble in recent years. 

“It’s something that we’ve tried to hang our hat on since we’ve been here,” Hubble said of McKay’s tough style of play. “Breckenridge has tough kids. We always try to play the game extremely physical and Zane encompasses that.” 

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BRECKENRIDGE TEAM PREVIEW: Buckaroos ready to face the gauntlet

BRECKENRIDGE —If piling up impressive records is the lone criteria for success, then Casey Hubble’s Breckenridge Buckaroos aren’t a blip on the radar. 

If consistently peaking at the right time and qualifying for the playoffs is the top priority, then Hubble has yet to fail during his five seasons in Breck.   

Hubble has posted a modest 28-31 overall record at BHS, which is misleading if one takes into consideration the level of difficulty he chooses for his non-district schedule.  But the Bucks are 17-9 in district play during that time, with five straight postseason appearances, a district title and a regional semifinal appearance. 

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FEATURE: Clyde’s Baker growing into role as undisputed leader

With more than 160 tackles to his credit over the past two seasons, Bo Baker has been a leader for the Clyde Bulldogs since he was a sophomore.

This year, for the first time, he’ll be the leader.

Playing alongside do-it-all standout Payton Burton each of the past two seasons, Baker managed to keep a relatively low profile despite near-elite production in his first two varsity seasons. But with Burton graduating in the spring, and Baker’s role in the offensive backfield slated to grow to match his importance to the Bulldog defense, that’s unlikely to to be the case in his third.

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CLYDE TEAM PREVIEW: Experienced Bulldogs look to make leap in 2019

CLYDE — A case could be made that the Clyde Bulldogs were the best 3-7 team in the state relative to their competition level a year ago. But that’s little consolation to second-year coach Scott Campbell, who has much bigger goals in mind for his program.

Sharing a district with Wall, Jim Ned, Eastland, Breckenridge and Early, Clyde’s path to the playoffs will be as treacherous as ever in 2019. But Campbell has good reason to believe his Bulldogs are due a big leap this fall. The experience gained through last year’s frustration will likely play a large role in that.

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FEATURE: Early’s Smithson a small, but determined target

EARLY — At only 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, Early receiver Timmy Smithson doesn’t cast an imposing shadow. In fact, some may say he barely casts a shadow at all. 

That is, until one looks at his résumé. 

Smithson, who earned all-state honors as a junior last season, accomplished this feat despite getting extra defensive attention while playing in one of the most difficult 3A districts in Texas. 

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EARLY TEAM PREVIEW: Longhorns making no excuses in brutal district

EARLY — If one were to cite the chief problem with the Early football program, it may very well be geography. 

After racing out to a 4-1 record during the non-district portion of their 2018 schedule, the Longhorns jumped headlong into what one computer power rating service ranked as the second toughest 3A district in all of Texas. 

They closed with an 0-5 finish, a 4-6 overall mark and spent Thanksgiving at home.  By season’s end that same computer service rated Early (despite its last-place finish) high enough to have reached postseason play in several other districts. 

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FEATURE: Competition drives Brady’s Galindo twins to be their best

BRADY — You don’t have to ask Brady twins Benjamin and Caleb Galindo who’s the better athlete to get an opinion on the matter.

Just ask them about their relationship and they’ll volunteer that information independently.

But tread lightly if you’re a fan of middle ground and compromise. You won’t find any here. The stakes of this long-raging debate are simply too high.

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BRADY TEAM PREVIEW: Bulldogs eyeing playoff return in 2019

BRADY — It’s rare that a 2-8 season represents progress, but that was the case for Brady in 2018. Coming off a winless campaign the year prior, the Bulldogs found themselves in position to make the playoffs in their final game of the season last year.

With the bulk of its talent back from that team, including eight offensive and nine defensive starters among 16 returning lettermen, Brady is hoping to take the next step this fall. And for third-year coach Shay Easterwood, a BHS grad himself, that means returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

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FEATURE: Tough, knowledgeable, versatile — that’s Comanche’s Conine

COMANCHE — At 5-foot-10 and 280 pounds, Comanche offensive lineman Jeron Conine isn’t someone you’d associate with the quarterback position. 

Yet for a time in the eighth grade and his freshman season in high school, that is the position Conine played before the natural progression of things steered him up front. For those who know him, it comes as no surprise that the senior spent time behind center, given his athleticism and knowledge of the Comanche’s wing-T offense.

He is now a key element in the Comanche attack as a senior lineman on a junior-dominated team. He will not only be leaned upon for leadership, but for expertise in the scheme itself. 

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COMANCHE TEAM PREVIEW: Rebuilding or reloading? Indians hope its the latter

COMANCHE — After six successful years at the helm at Comanche, coach Stephen Hermesmeyer may be facing the single biggest test his program has seen since his arrival there in 2013. 

With three straight district titles under his belt, Hermesmeyer returns only three starters on both sides of the ball this year among 11 lettermen, 

This is the second straight year the Indians have had absorb a large graduating class — virtually depleting them of varsity experience. It is at this point, however, where the foundation of the program can be tested. 

Are the Indians capable of enduring a difficult non-district schedule with a junior-heavy roster, then capturing a seventh-straight playoff berth?   

Put simply, rebuild or reload? 

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FEATURE: Dublin’s Huffman may keep things light, but he’s deadly serious on the field

DUBLIN — Start with serious production on the ground. Add some production as a receiver. Sprinkle in some speed and finish by throwing in a dash of humor, and you’ve got Dublin utility man Hagen Huffman. 

If, as a Big Country football fan, you haven’t heard of Huffman yet, a quick education may be in order. 

The 17-year old senior is one of the most versatile returning Class 3A players in the Big Country. And in all likelihood, he will be a key element if the Lions are to repeat the success they had in last year’s 8-3 season.

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DUBLIN TEAM PREVIEW: Lions hope to answer questions in the trenches

DUBLIN — With his team facing a host of questions heading into the 2019 football season, Dublin coach Bob Cervetto remains as upbeat as ever. 

Returning just five starters on both sides of the ball from last year’s 8-3 team, the Lions have taken graduation hits all over the field and on both sides of the ball. 

Despite all the new faces, a sprinkling of proven standouts remain among the starting 22. That, along with an above-average overall maturity level are what Cervetto will be counting on heading into this year’s campaign. 

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FEATURE: Anson’s Hagler equipped for success in senior campaign

           Drew Hagler

ANSON — For two straight seasons, Anson senior dual-threat quarterback Drew Hagler has posted numbers to rival any high school signal caller in the Big Country. 

As a sophomore in 2017, he threw for 1,547 yards, rushed for 1,266 and accounted for 28 touchdowns.  Last year as junior, while playing on a youthful 5-6 team making its Class 3A debut, he put up 2,021 yards through the air, rushed for 1,163 and had a hand in 29 scores.

This year, however, a senior-dominated Anson club with experience throughout its roster, has furnished Hagler with the opportunity for a breakout campaign, even by the standards he has already set. 

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FEATURE: Backfield tandem of Callahan and Nichols carrying on Cisco tradition

CISCO — Though they have diversified in recent years, the I-based Cisco Loboes are still known for a straight-ahead approach when it comes to moving the chains. 

At this they’ve been quite successful, posting a 192-40 overall mark since coach Brent West’s arrival 2002, with five trips to state championship games and a title in 2013. 

While generally fielding a team worthy of top-10 consideration, Cisco’s upper-tier teams have almost always possessed three key elements: an excellent offensive line, an effective blocker at fullback and a capable tailback. 

Entering the 2019 season, an untested offensive line will still have to prove itself, but the two other pieces of the puzzle appear to be in place with tailback Stanley Callahan and fullback Cam Nichols. 

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CISCO TEAM PREVIEW: Loboes must reload to answer two big district challenges

CISCO — The sun will rise in the east, a compass will point north and the Cisco Loboes will win a district title in football. 

Most truisms stay the same forever, until we apply them to pigskin.

Perennial power Cisco, which hasn’t lost a district game since 2010, will face two difficult challenges to keep that streak alive this season in difficult road games at Ballanger (Sept. 27) and Anson (Nov. 1). Both clubs are expected to dramatically improve, both games are on grass surfaces (away from Cisco’s customary turf) and both clubs are armed with dangerous quarterbacks. 

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ANSON TEAM PREVIEW: Rebuilt, veteran Tigers poised to make a 3A splash

ANSON — The Anson Tigers absorbed a double-whammy in 2018, being bumped up to Class 3A by realignment while at the same time, having its roster depleted of experience by graduation. 

Coach Chris Hagler’s junior-laden crew slugged its way through a 5-6 campaign at the higher level, gradually improving as the season progressed to post a 5-2 district mark and reach the playoffs. 

This year, however, the Anson camp is hoping that last season’s toil will finally pay dividends. There’s reason to believe that could be the case, with eight offensive and nine defensive returning starters among 18 lettermen.  

This includes senior quarterback Drew Hagler (2,021 yards passing, 1,153 rushing 29 total TDs), who is about to embark on his final season behind center for the Tigers. 

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FEATURE: Ballinger’s Nunez ready to follow up on huge junior season

BALLINGER — Edgar Nunez wasn’t exactly a household name throughout the Big Country as he entered his junior season last year.

Having endured all the growing pains expected of a varsity sophomore in 2017 when he replaced his injured brother (Javier) at quarterback, he was an unknown commodity. 

It didn’t take long for that to change. 

Not only did Nunez have a breakout season last year, but he earned All-West Texas and All-Big Country Preps honors in the process — leaving the fans, his coaches, the area and even himself a bit surprised. 

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BALLINGER TEAM PREVIEW: Bearcats ready for three-way district dogfight

BALLINGER — It could be argued that third-year Ballinger coach Chuck Lipsey inherited a program at the shallow end of a down cycle in 2017.

It can also be demonstrated that he has gradually taken the Bearcats from mediocrity to the level of area threat. A 4-7 mark in his debut campaign was followed by a 7-4 mark and bi-district loss to Childress last season.

That upward trend is about to continue — at least, if the preseason numbers and natural progression hold true, and the Bearcats avoid injury problems.

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FEATURE: Merkel linemen excited about new physical offensive scheme

The Merkel offensive linemen didn’t have any say in the direction their offense would go under new coach Brian Ramsey. But talking to that bunch, you’d have thought they hand picked the scheme themselves.

The Badgers will be switching from the spread option attack they utilized under former coach John Cornelius to a physical slot-T/wing-T hybrid this fall.

And members of a Merkel line unit that averages upwards of 275 pounds per man are having a field day with the change.

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MERKEL TEAM PREVIEW: New-look Badgers look to keep playoff streak going

MERKEL — The 2019 Merkel football team will have a distinctly different look than the Badgers squads fans got to cheer into the playoffs in 2017 and 2018.

Gone are John Cornelius (now the coach at Sudan) and do-it-all athlete Jonah White (now a running back at Baylor). And taking over the MHS program is a coach in Brian Ramsey who will be shaking things up this fall.

With White off to college and no athletic equals to take his place, the Badgers will be trading their explosive spread option offense for a slot-T/wing-T base and a new “three yards and a cloud of dust” mentality. But if all goes well, Merkel will be closing this season the same place it has each of the past three: in the postseason.

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FEATURE: Green-but-talented Sanchez will be a Bangs bell cow

BANGS — If you wish to speak with Bangs’ junior Ethan Sanchez, you may want to do it prior to the football season.

He’s about to be a busy man. 

Sanchez, who will be the featured running back in Bangs’ offense, will balance his remaining time as a starting linebacker. It is the same role he was thrust into as a green sophomore in 2018, but one at which he showed noticeable potential. 

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